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About the Dollars for Docs Data

Details behind our drug company money database.

Updated September 2014

ProPublica's Dollars for Docs database contains approximately $4billion in payments to doctors, other medical providers and health care institutions that have been disclosed by 17 pharmaceutical companies and their subsidiaries since 2009.

ProPublica took these disclosures and assembled them into a single, comprehensive database that allows patients to search for their physician or medical center and receive a listing of all payments matching that name. The database can also be searched by state and by company. It can be filtered by category and by year.

It was not easy to assemble. Some of the firms published the data on their websites in a way that made it nearly impossible to analyze or, in some cases, even download. And each firm reported its spending differently. Some simply included speaking. Others also reported consulting and research. Sometimes, research, business travel costs and meals were listed. A number of companies have changed the way they report from one year to the next.

The companies disclosed their payments on different schedules, and some only started reporting payments last year.

Data from 2009 to 2012 was collected by ProPublica. The majority of our 2013 data was provided to ProPublica by Obsidian HDS, which runs Pharmashine, a commercial service that gathers data on pharmaceutical and device industry payments to healthcare professionals. We worked with PharmaShine to ensure the accuracy of the data.

The Physician Payment Sunshine Act, a part of the Affordable Care Act, requires that all pharmaceutical and medical device companies publicly report payments over $10 to doctors beginning this year. That information will be posted on a government website; the first report will cover the period from August to December 2013.

On each payment record in Dollars for Docs, you can find details about the drugs each company makes, how it describes the service performed and questions you can ask your doctor about his or her relationship with the companies.

Our search tool is set up so that only payments worth more than $250 show up at first. If you are interested in all payments, you will need to UNCHECK the box "Show only payments over $250" on the right above the search results table.

Here are several things to bear in mind about the data:

  • Only the 17 companies that have disclosed payments on their websites are included. Their combined prescription drug sales amounted to about half of the U.S. market in 2013. Though a substantial share, the data may not be wholly representative of the industry. Several dozen other drug companies have not reported payments.
  • Some doctors have the same name. Just because you find your doctor's name in the data does not mean your doctor has received payments from a drug company. On the flip side, if your doctor's name is not in the data, that doesn't mean he or she hasn't received a payment from a firm.
  • The data reflects payments made from 2009 to 2013. Not all companies reported payments for every quarter during that period.
  • Companies are continually updating their data, so the most recent additions may not be included in Dollars for Docs.
  • Although much of the money went to physicians, research payments to institutions are also included when disclosed. Payments to other practitioners, including nurses and pharmacists, are listed in the few cases in which firms disclosed them.
  • Practitioner names and addresses (city/state) are listed as the companies released them and may vary. For instance, some companies include a middle initial and others do not. Some companies also list different cities for the same individual. This may happen if professionals have practices in multiple locations or provided different addresses for payment.
  • Misspellings and unusual situations are preserved as the companies reported them. Some examples: Companies report payments for doctors in "Saint Louis" and "St Louis." Novartis listed a payment to a doctor in "2500, Ill." Valeant reported a payment to someone listed only as "Jennifer A." EMD Serono included payments to doctors in the city/state of "Not specified, Unknown Default."
  • As noted above, the companies' reports cover different periods and include payments for different services. Some companies include payments only to speakers, while others include consultants and advisers, as well as research, meals and business travel. (Details are included on each company's page.)
  • The reports include both the name of the health provider who performed the service as well as the entity paid. They may be different.
  • Research payments are distinct from speaking and consulting. Payments for clinical studies may include costs associated with patient care, supplies, as well as the time spent by health care professionals treating patients and managing the study. The figure listed may not reflect the actual compensation received by the physician listed as the principal investigator.
  • A physician on the list may be getting money from other companies that have yet to disclose payments.
  • Some companies report refunds or adjustments to correct cases in which doctors' compensation was overstated. Adjustments are reported as negative amounts.
  • Our search results by default do not show payments smaller than $250 or adjustments smaller than -$250. To see all payments, uncheck the toggle at the top right hand side of the results.
  • In the past, Eli Lilly has in some cases used different middle initials for the same individual.
  • This list generally does not include payments for speaking at continuing medical education courses, which are run independently from the pharmaceutical companies.

If you are a practitioner and believe you should not be in this database, or if you are a patient with concerns, contact us at [email protected]

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